Her birth wasn’t ideal. In fact, it was the exact opposite of my birth plan. We ended up with a cesarean and no skin to skin contact. I didn’t even get to hold her for the first twelve hours of her life. The first time I held her I was terrified, she was hooked up to an IV and on oxygen. I didn’t want to do anything that would hinder her healing. When the nurses handed her to me I was in disbelief that she was really mine, she wasn’t fooled though. Natalie knew I was her mommy. Even with everything that was happening her little instincts worked and she wanted to nurse.
I walked my sore, post surgery body back and forth from our room to the nursery to nurse her every hour or two the first few days. She knew what she was supposed to do, but she was getting angry because she wasn’t getting what she wanted. It’s not uncommon for those with cesarean births to have a delay in their milk supply so I stuck it out, nursing, pumping, nursing, pumping.
Finally after two nights Natalie was able to come be in our room with us for good. I should have been ecstatic, but it was terrifying and painful. She wanted to be with me all the time, wanted to nurse all the time. I didn’t know anything about co sleeping or bed sharing. I didn’t know it was ok that she just wanted to sleep on my chest all the time. The first night was rough. Every time she would wake up I would have my husband hand her to me, or have to get up feeling like I was going to split in half at the guts only to have her disappointed again because my milk still wasn’t there. I wanted to breastfeed. I was certain of that, I hadn’t counted on it taking this long. We tried the SNS set up with small amounts of pumped milk, then small amounts of formula. The lactation consultants assured me that it wasn’t necessary to try the formula but the feeling that you are starving your brand new beautiful baby was unbearable.
The next day, they were ready to send us home. I had barely even met this kid, wasn’t even sure how to feed her, and it was time for me to leave? I told them I wasn’t comfortable going home, still in pain, and scared I wouldn’t be able to feed her. We stayed one more day.
The last doctor to see Natalie finally decided she had lost too much weight and supplementing with formula would be best. So we did. At first at home with the SNS, and, after a week or two with a bottle. I never gave up though. I always nursed her before the bottle, and pumped a couple times a day. After she was three months old I had to return to work. I had barely established a milk supply and now I had to leave her. Pumping at work was terrible. My job is busy, and even though I’m required by law to get breaks, that doesn’t mean someone is going to do the work for me while I’m gone. I was always fighting the internal battle of, do I go on all my breaks and pump more than once while making my work load unbearable? Or do I sacrifice my breaks and more pumped milk to ensure I keep my job and a home for my child.
I definitely felt like having to work kept her on formula longer than I had hoped. Even though it was only a bottle or two a day I knew that if I had been home I would have been able to do it. Exclusively breastfeed my baby girl. Between seven and nine months somewhere she had weaned herself of the formula and even off of her one pumped bottle of milk shortly after. It took almost the first year, but she was still breastfeeding, and off of formula and I wasn’t going to stop now. We battled a few clogged ducts during this time, but nothing more than that. Applying heat helped a lot.
Natalie is now nearly two years old and still nursing a few times a day. She says “boobie!” with a big smile when I come home from work, and that’s ok with me. I always thought that when a child was old enough to ask then they should be done. I was wrong.
I don’t know for sure, but I feel that without the epidural, there wouldn’t have been a cesarean, and without the cesarean my milk would have come faster. With a little more knowledge, and a doula, things probably would have went better.